Reported by: Jonathan S. Reiskin, Associate News Editor
Is the trucking industry as we know it in North America changing? Will trucking careers slide downward and may even eventually become somewhat “obsolete?” Many experts believe it will and are advising that the shear core of the U.S. trucking foundation is on very shaky ground.
Trucking in North America is in the midst of a fundamental reshaping which, according to James Hebe, a senior executive of Navistar Inc., “will lead to flat tonnage levels for fleets and fewer truck manufacturers producing much more expensive vehicles, mostly in Mexico.” Mr. Hebe, further noted that federal policies will cause the demise of a number of trucking institutions such as “long and tall tractor design, owner-operators and independent maintenance shops.”
He further noted that long haul operations will shift to regional positions and dedicated contract carriage for distribution and that “the availability of truck-rail intermodal for many linehaul movements of more than 1,000 miles and the shock of $4.75-a-gallon fuel last year mean “fuel prices have changed the world.”
Believing there will be a surge in truck sales within the second half of 2009, he states that this will just be a “suckers’ rally” but it is “only so buyers can avoid more expensive 2010 trucks equipped with new emissions controls.” Due to high fuel and equipment prices and the onset of electronic on-board recorders, this he said will be the “death knell” for owner-operators because they will not be able to survive by running legal.
He also pointed out the high cost to truckers due to the current administration policies for unionization. The cost of unions, he said, is driving manufacturing jobs primarily to Mexico. He pointed out that “there are no unemployed truck workers sitting around in Mexico. We will have to train truck builders who have never built trucks before — and that means a ramp-up will have to be slow, or quality will have to suffer.”
With 38 years of experience under his belt, he believes “truck pricing will increase dramatically. If you think the pricing in 2010 is bad, you haven’t seen anything yet.”
Summing it up, we must wonder if the outlook for the U.S. Trucking Industry is about to be shaken to its core.
According to Mr. Hebe: “Truck jobs in the U.S. are gone and will not be coming back.”